Guest Commentary: National Popular Vote ensures your votes count

Published 6:30 am Wednesday, August 26, 2020

By Marge Hoffa

Minnesota DFL vice chair

In around 100 days, Americans will do their civic duty and cast a vote for president of the United States. What many people may not understand is that under the current state winner-take-all laws for electing a United States president, candidates who receive the second most popular votes can become president.

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Because of winner-take-all statues, five of our 45 presidents have come into office without having won the most popular votes in the country. Because of winner-take-all statutes, not every vote is equal throughout the country.

The way things stand, the election boils down to a few battle-ground states and other states are ignored. In 2012, eight closely divided battleground states received virtually all (96 percent) of the general-election campaign visits by the major-party presidential and vice-presidential candidates. The remaining 38 states were ignored. In 2016, 12 closely divided battleground states received virtually all (94 percent) of the general-election campaign visits.

The allocation of campaign visits among states is one of the most important strategic decisions that presidential campaigns make. In the days of in-person campaign, this denied most citizens the opportunity to see their future leader in person. Because of the state-by-state winner-take-all method of awarding electoral votes, candidates have no reason to solicit votes in the general election campaign in states where the statewide outcome is a foregone conclusion. This typically means that campaigns allocate their limited campaigning time to big cities and ignore rural areas.

But there is a better way.

Under a National Popular Vote system of electing a president, every vote would be equal throughout the country and Washington, D.C. Simply put, the candidate receiving the most popular votes would win the presidency.

A National Popular Vote would be enacted after state Legislatures possessing a total of 270 electoral votes passed a bill into law. A National Popular Vote bill has been enacted by 16 jurisdictions possessing 196 of the 270 electoral votes needed to activate it. Passing a bill in Minnesota would add to the momentum.

It is too late in the process for a National Popular Vote to take effect for this year’s presidential election, but let’s work together by asking our state legislators to pass a bill in the 2021 session and help put the National Popular Vote in place for the 2024 election. It’s time that presidential candidates speak to all citizens, not just those in swing states, and that every vote in every state counts.